Sunday, March 7, 2010

Time & Money Saving Tip

Before I get too far along in this blog, I want to share a way that I save both time & money in the kitchen.  Some of you will already have heard me talk about this, but (since this is for Liv) I'm going to repeat myself here.  My grandma told me how to do this & it is one of the greatest kitchen tips ever!

I buy large packages of ground hamburger (whatever is on sale & is the cheapest).  Then I cook ALL of it at one time.  Drain it and rinse it in hot water.  I allow it to cool for a little while & then place it in qt. size zip lock baggies or plastic containers that I can freeze it in. (I've recently discovered that I like ziplock baggies better because all my plastic containers aren't tied up in the freezer & clean up is a breeze!).  Then I freeze it for later use.

After the first few times you will be able to judge how much cooked ground beef is an approx. pound of hamburger.  I often just look at the pounds labeled on the beef, then get out that many baggies & divide my cooked beef among the baggies.  So if the labels add up to 7.3 lbs.  I would get out 7 baggies & divide equally.  I'm not a stickler for exactness so if the labels added up to 7.8 lbs., I'd still just go with the 7 baggies.  I've yet to find a recipe that being off by a little bit really affects the taste.

When I'm ready to use the hamburger, I take it from the freezer, pop it in the microwave on defrost for a couple of minutes (just until it's not one hard frozen lump - it's still frozen some, but can be crumbled), & use it in my recipe.  It finishes warming up during the cooking process of the recipe. 

Preparing your ground beef like this accomplishes several things.  

1.  It saves an enormous amount of time.  I use to HATE recipes that started with "brown the ground beef and drain".  Not only does it make a mess in the kitchen, but I never seemed to have fresh ground beef on hand when I needed it. It had always already went bad (because I didn't get to make the recipe when I had planned) or it was frozen (uncooked) in the freezer which meant I had to not only cook it, but defrost it too!

2. It saves money.  This method eliminates the "oops, I didn't get that used up in time" waste that was happening in my house a lot.  It also allows me to buy the cheaper ground beef because, from what I've read, after you drain it & rinse it in hot water the fat content is no more than that of the leaner ground beef.  And it allows me to stock up on ground beef when it's on sale and to buy the large (cheaper) family packs.

3. It eliminates the "browning the ground beef" mess from your daily routine.  You make the mess one time (usually once a month for me) & that's it.  No more making a mess just so you can start the supper mess. 

Another nice thing about doing this is that it is versatile.  If your family uses a lot of ground beef with onions in it or onions and peppers, you can fix your meat with these & freeze it with these extras already in it.  Saving even more time (& money - if you find the extras on sale).

I've also found this works well with beef stew meat.  I buy the stew meat on sale, boil it in some water until it is cooked the way we like it, allow it to cool & freeze meat & broth in a plastic container (this one won't work in the baggies very well because of the broth).  Then I can make vegetable soup or beef & noodles in a flash with my broth frozen right with the beef.  We've found the beef is much more tender & tasty when made ahead like this. 

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